Tuesday morning we arrived at HQ to get ready to arrive at a school to teach students about agriculture. We have never taught a school, per se, and I was a little anxious to see what we could get done in a school besides a community group of farmers. We arrived at the Montessori Infinity Vocational School, about 20 minutes outside of Arusha. It was a small campus and it kind of reminded me of one of the residence quads at UAlbany, with green grass in the middle and classrooms on the perimeter. We weren't told who exactly we were teaching, but when we arrived and saw about three classrooms of pre-schoolers a few of us were confused. Without any information to us volunteers and the two counterparts were ushered into the principal's office for chai and bread. After we begrudgingly swallowed crusty bread and tangawizi (ginger), we entered a classroom of mostly women about 20 or older in uniform squeezed behind desks which looked like they belonged to junior high school students. The sign above the doorway signaled 'SPEAK ENGLISH ONLY'. Fair enough for me, but I greeted and introduced myself in Swahili to a room full of deadpan faces. Some students looked fairly Americanized, one volunteer commented one girl looked exactly like a character from 'Don't be a Menace'. Sadly, I agreed--she really did! Many of the girls already looked bored, some were popping their gum, doodling and passing notes. After the principal came in and told them to get in order, they stood and greeted us. Most said 'Shikamoo', the word to greet elders---much older elders. I am 20, another volunteer is 20, and the third is a very young looking 28. I already knew this was going to be a bad group.
On top of which, we were not shown this set of flip charts nor told what we would be teaching. I have no idea these students' backgrounds. No idea how to engage them, what to ask, etc. I was pretty upset our counterpart decided to tell us what we were doing, right there, in front of the students, who if that sign was correct, speak English. Nonetheless, I tried to do my part and taught the lesson the same as I would a group that I was sure was interested. Besides, it seemed no one even really spoke English that well. Many of the students just waited for the Swahili translation to understand, so they didnt even care to improve their English, as was one of their intended goals for this session. Later we learned that these students have a garden behind the school, which they use to grow vegetables for food at the school. Ironically, these students were studying to become teachers!! And they are expected to teach agriculture to others as a part of their studies.
At the end of the lesson, we were all pretty anxious to leave. As we took questions, one boy was daring enough to ask something (in Swahili) to which the entire room erupted in laughter. Our counterparts all looked shocked, and one just had his mouth hanging open. I asked what was going on, and our counterpart whispered to me, that he'd just asked if one of our female counterparts, a Tanzanian- was a male or female. She has short hair, not at all unusual for Tanzanian women, but has a beautiful face! I remember when I met her, remarking to someone how strikingly beautiful she is. She said something back in Swahili, to which some girls applauded and gave thumbs up but others just kept laughing. Later I'd heard she clarified and introduced herself and said that she knows she looks like a woman, to which I was proud of her but was so disappointed in the whole thing.
That afternoon we returned to the GSC office to continue food drying training, and cut up some bananas and tomatoes. There are three different techniques we were coming up with- dry drying (cut up and dry the food), wet drying (cut and put in water and then dry), and lemon brine drying (cut and place in a lemon water solution and then dry) to see which method is best for each fruit or vegetable. I'm allergic to mold, and somehow thought it was a good idea to test last season's dried cassava (I love cassava!), which turned out must have been moldy when I felt my throat get dry and I began wheezing. After that fit, which lasted a couple of moments I was glad I didn't need to go to the hospital and made sure to just prepare the dried food but not eat it.
We were told that we'd do training at Montessori all this week and half of next week, since we could not confirm any trainings because of the election. Are these students really the best we can get, where is everyone going for election? I have two more weeks here! Hopefully this training doesn't make me want to rush my time here......